AKRON – Between 2000 and 2009, Akron Archbishop Hoban made eight playoff trips in 10 seasons.
The Knights will face the Blue Devils (12-1) in the Division III state semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
After a five-year hiatus, the Knights returned to the playoffs thanks to a stout defense and an offense with several Division I commits.
Tim Tyrrell is in his third season at the helm. He also coached at Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas as well as a high school team in Florida.
He credited the players for buying into his program in getting the Knights back to this point.
“The big things have been offseason workouts and changing the mentality,” he said. “When I came, these seniors were sophomores, and a lot of them played as sophomores. We had to build the program up.
“We went 6-4 a year ago and didn’t know how to win close games,” he continued. “Through that experience, we won those close games this season.”
Hoban went 9-1 in the regular season, with five wins against playoff teams. The Knights have defeated New Philadelphia (35-21), Louisville (21-14) and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (24-21) in Division III, Region 7.
Last week, Hoban forced four turnovers and scored off two takeaways in the second half to beat the Irish in the regional championship. The Knights also won the regular-season meeting with St. Vincent-St. Mary, 24-7.
The only loss for the Knights was a 35-14 setback to Cleveland Benedictine, which lost 31-30 in double overtime to Toledo Central Catholic last week. It was the only time the Knights allowed more than 10 points during the regular season.
Junior quarterback Danny Clark, an Ohio State commit, has achieved 125-of-233 passing for 2,021 yards and 21 touchdowns. His top target is senior Jonah Morris, who is looking at Michigan State and Notre Dame, with 32 receptions, 645 yards and eight TDs; junior Todd Sibley, another Ohio State commit, is the feature back with 1,728 yards and 20 TDs on 274 carries.
Sibley was the Northeast Inland District offensive player of the year, and Morris (6-4, 200), who can play end, linebacker and corner on defense, was the district’s defensive player of the year.
“When you have a quarterback as good as Danny, you throw it when you want it to,” Tyrrell said. “Jonah has been double-teamed in the postseason, but he stretches the field. Danny has been able to get the ball to the other kids.
“We didn’t run Todd much during the season. He had a low amount of carries compared to other backs in Northeast Ohio,” he said. “Todd has really taken the brunt of the load for us this postseason.”
The Kersh brothers, senior linebacker/punter Dane (6-2, 215) and junior wideout/defensive back/kicker Grant (5-11, 180), senior wide receiver/defensive back Tyler Gilchrist (5-11, 180) and senior linemen Jacob Kepler (6-0, 270) are other players to watch, while linemen sophomore R.J. Kelley (6-3, 285) and freshman Nolan Rumler (6-4, 290), play on the offensive line and are receiving Division I looks.
The Knights have four shutouts on the year and allow only 200 total yards per game. They have forced 29 turnovers.
“The big part is we’re very fast. We won’t scare anyone sizewise,” Tyrrell said. “We base our defense off speed and good tackling. I learned under Jim Tressel that you put your best players on defense. That’s what I’ve done from the very beginning, and this is what it’s been built into.”